Workforce & Training Infrastructure Progress

MSL Partner Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) and its Sustainable Technologies Center has received two funding commitments in support of its Microgrid Education Center (MEC), which now begins its planning and development phase. Together, these commitments address both curriculum and associated equipment and infrastructure, including a campus-wide functional microgrid testbed, in a way that supports MSL’s overall mission and objectives.

The Microgrid Education Center will provide technical training, ongoing development for industry professionals, custom training for industry, and upper-level courses and advanced degrees through university partnerships, along with “train the trainer” offerings for global applications. The electric industry workforce is graying rapidly, and will require large numbers of new workers soon, with concurrent growth internationally in rural electrification. In order to keep pace with the technological innovations affecting the industry, there will be a crucial need for appropriately trained technical staff at all levels and sectors of the industry, a need that MEC will help address. The initial course at SFCC, with the working title of “Introduction to Sustainable Energy Technologies,” will be offered in the spring semester of 2016, and the Smart Grid and Microgrid Program flier can be dowloaded here.

SFCC is a New Mexico state Center of Excellence in Biofuels as well as Energy Efficiency, and is exceptionally well qualified to develop and deliver all aspects of the training that will be needed, and which will be developed with these two funding commitments.

The first funding commitment is from Santa Fe County, for development of a smart/microgrid curriculum, including a needs assessment, hiring of an MEC Director, development of an advisory panel and private sector partnerships, and design of Certificate and Associates Degree programs. The initial curriculum and course offerings are expected to launch in the fall semester of 2015. In addition, SFCC is a founder and partner in the Higher Education Center (HEC), along with the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State University, all of which offer four-year and advanced degree programs in related energy and engineering fields. The HEC is designed to allow SFCC students to articulate directly into these partner institutions, and is also open to any university nationwide.

The second commitment is from the State of New Mexico, in support of related infrastructure development on the SFCC campus. MSL currently has training and educational facilities at SFCC’s Trades and Advanced Technology Center. This 45,336 square foot LEED-registered building was completed in 2011 at a cost of $12 million, and houses SFCC’s Sustainable Technologies Center, offering classes in biofuels, photovoltaics, and energy and building efficiency. Planning will now begin for advanced microgrid facilities, including a functional microgrid testbed on campus; a visualization and simulation environment; offices and meeting rooms; and a future adjunct research park.

SFCC has substantial assets that can be incorporated into the functional microgrid testbed, including:

  • A 1.5 MW PV system and smaller systems for teaching purposes
  • Thermal storage capacity of a 12,000 gallon tank in conjunction with a rooftop thermal solar array comprised of solar panels and evacuated tube solar water heating collectors
  • A campus loop water system, with a solar thermal system for Fitness Pool supplemental heating
  • A biomass boiler with district heating/chilling system capable of meeting 85% of the college’s peak heating demand
  • Natural gas boilers capable of full campus load
  • An absorber chiller rated at 30 ton capacity

In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory has completed an energy storage feasibility study and design for a modular pumped hydro facility. The testbed will link these assets (and new ones as they come online) in an integrated design, featuring a plug-and-play architecture so as to facilitate its use by a variety of students, professionals, and experimenters; and to support commercial and utility partnerships for R&D, testing, startup and business development, and entrepreneurial activity.